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Ethiopia civil war: Doctors among those begging for food in Tigray

Image source, Getty Images

Some of the nurses and doctors at the biggest hospital in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region are having to beg for food to feed themselves, one of the medics has told the BBC.

They have not been paid for eight months forcing them to find other ways of supporting their families, he said.

The doctor’s account comes as the UN reports that “severe hunger” was hitting ever more people in Tigray.

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Ethiopia’s 14-month war has led to a humanitarian crisis affecting millions.

Federal government forces have been fighting rebels from the northern Tigray region since November 2020 in a conflict that has killed thousands of people.

For a lot of that time much of Tigray has been cut off, making it hard to deliver vital aid and medical supplies. Banks have also been shut meaning that people cannot access savings or funds to pay others.

As a result, 40% of Tigray’s 5.5 million people “are suffering an extreme lack of food”, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) says in its latest assessment.

Half of all pregnant and breastfeeding women are suffering from malnutrition, its survey found.

Overall, in Tigray and the other two regions affected by the fighting, Amhara and Afar, nine million people need some form of food assistance, the WFP adds.

Doctors and nurses have not been spared from the suffering.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a doctor from Ayder Hospital, in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, told the BBC that seeing nurses and doctors queuing for food parcels had become normal over the past seven months.

They have not been paid since May last year.

“Most have cut the number of meals they can take per day. Food oil, vegetables, grains – the price has soared so high that it is unthinkable to buy. Some have started begging for food,” the doctor said.

The BBC is unable to independently verify the details in the account as much of Tigray has been under a communications blackout since the start of the war.

No UN food convoy has reached Tigray since mid-December, but the WFP says 100 lorries a day are needed to prevent starvation.

On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross did manage to deliver medical supplies to Mekelle – its first since last September.

The UN is asking for $337m (£252m) to fund its operation in northern Ethiopia for the next six months.

Map showing Tigray and other regions with key places

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